Living Data

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned
that this program contains images and voices of deceased persons.

Living Data

2014 Conversations

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"Every interaction is a risk you might be transformed.
Creation is conversation, as is human life."
Jonathan Marshall, Anthropologist


No one way is right but some ways are useful

No one way is right but some ways are useful
Part One recorded Thursday 2th Feb 2014
Hosted by the Climate Change Cluster (C3)
University of Technology, Sydney (UTS)
Camera: Sebastian Reategui, Lisa Roberts

How do we understand the natural world?

This is the first of the 2014 series of recorded conversations between scientists and artists about the different ways we understand the natural world. UTS scientist Christian Evenhuistalks with artists Lisa Roberts,Leanne Thompson,Caterina Mocciola,Catherine Nolanand Paula Haveyabout the nature of scientific models.

The drawings Chris refers to come from HAY, D. B., WILLIAMS, D., STAHL, D. and WINGATE, R. J. (2013), Using Drawings of the Brain Cell to Exhibit Expertise in Neuroscience: Exploring the Boundaries of Experimental Culture. Sci. Ed., 97: 468-491. doi: 10.1002/sce.21055. Read the Abstract.


Paula Haveyis a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at UTS. Her response to participating in this conversation is placed here by way of introduction to the whole:

So often I find the complexity of climate change science and the call to response it requires an overwhelming combination. If I am inclined to disengage or feign a disingenuous 'literacy' at times, it isn't because I don't wish to participate, but because the sense of ignorance and helplessness I feel here is frankly, confronting.

Our conversation with Chris turned up a number of moments where I felt myself willing to leave this sense behind. This was made possible by finding within the material discussed places of commonality between scientific and 'other' kinds of modelling; and intrigueingly between my own lived self and the coral.

The most memorable of those moments involved a selection of details that enable and disable the symbiotic relation between plant and animal aspects of the coral. These presented like a mix of elements that might characterise any number of symbiotic relations, certainly they called to mind some of the 'symbiotic' relations that I have lived anyway.

Some of the details discussed appeared within the range of certainty - a set of conditions required for the symbiosis to thrive and sustain itself, for example. Some things were not so evident – At exactly what point does an alteration in one of the very-many fluctuating conditions threaten the relation. A symbiosis presumes something mutual, but it appears that it is the animal aspect that drives the plant away! For better or worse, either way this detail calls to mind something more intriguing than a set of conditions? Certainly the animal is giving up that aspect that gives the coral its wonderful color. A sacrifice in the face of pending impoverishment perhaps? Or something more self serving? It appears that the symbiosis is adaptable, but only to a point. 'Threshold' is the word that emerged during our discussion. I know this word, this place. It is layered with 'process', a blend that includes a to-and-fro-ing betwen reflection and response, between demands that issue from without and those from within. It includes many qualities of feeling. Can I conceive of the coral as feeling? This place also includes needing. Often very basic forms of needing that involve light and oxygen, diversity and color, algae and hummus!

My own lived experience would suggest that the stuff of 'relations' whether static, harmonious, conflictual or in a state of adaption, is rarely reducible. My research, which explores dynamics between bodily movement and feeling (amongst other things) is equally challenged by this kind of complexity. Faced with the intricate entanglement between the organismic and the subjective body (a symbiosis?), and its situautedness (a set of environing conditions?) frequently I find myself turning to alternating models of embodiment.

The essential element of our converstion involved scientific modelling. My ability to access this type of modelling is challenged. Graphs baffle me. While the models I use do adapt neurobiological processes, they also include those based on the the chi, or distributed patterns of force like the wave or the spiral. Mostly though, it is the kinds of modelling that suggest potentials, however ambiguious, through artistic and written forms of reflection based on lived experience that I am most comfortable with. What became apparent during our conversation was that like scientific modelling the options I prefer are an attempt to represent and drive a line a thought that will deliver some essential element of a more complex whole. If this is a place of commonality that gives me something to hold onto when faced with climate change science, it also a place that requires a willingness to acknowledge the constraints-of any form while staying open to the possiblities in alternatives.